The Tidal Free, as it’s aptly named, will vary from the company’s famed HiFi and HiFi Plus tiers by offering a significantly lower bitrate for audio streaming (160Kbps vs 1411Kbps on HiFi) and Tidal says it will interrupt users periodically to remind them about Hi-Fi. That last bit could change later, but for now Tidal says it won’t have ads.
That being said, the Free tier will also miss out on niceties like lyrics or offline downloads. Those features will be reserved for the paid tiers of the service.
Finally, according to Billboard, there will also be a difference in how the service pays artists based on which streaming tiers they use. For example, if a user has the Free tier, their listening habits won’t directly contribute money directly to your favorite artists - they’ll be paid based on a collective number of listens. That’s different from the new Direct Artist Payout plan coming to Tidal HiFi Plus that will send 10% of your monthly subscription fee to your most-listened to artist.
Analysis: Is this Tidal’s big attempt to take on Spotify?
For years, Tidal has differentiated itself from other audio streaming services by its commitment to CD-quality audio - but that selling point has since been copied by Apple Music and, soon, Spotify HiFi.
This new free tier seems like the obvious way to attract new customers as other services continue to copy Tidal’s strategic advantage.
Still, it does sound like a better user experience - ads are the worst part of Spotify’s base subscription tier and currently Apple doesn’t have a free way to choose songs on Apple Music. Being able to choose which songs you listen to without ads is the ideal scenario.
How long that will be the case, however, remains to be seen.
- Not sure where to stream music? Check out our guide to the best music streaming services 2021: Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal and more
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Nick Pino is Managing Editor, TV and AV for TechRadar's sister site, Tom's Guide. Previously, he was the Senior Editor of Home Entertainment at TechRadar, covering TVs, headphones, speakers, video games, VR and streaming devices. He's also written for GamesRadar+, Official Xbox Magazine, PC Gamer and other outlets over the last decade, and he has a degree in computer science he's not using if anyone wants it.